Council agrees Plant-Based Treaty Action Plan

The City of Edinburgh Council took another step towards achieving its climate ambitions as councillors agreed a city-wide Plant-Based Treaty Action Plan.

Developed following the Council’s endorsement of the Plant-Based Treaty last year, the innovative action plan will improve access to plant-based foods among residents, promote food security and lower emissions.

In January 2023, Edinburgh became the first Scottish city, and European capital, to join the initiative. While endorsing the treaty is non-binding and carries no legal risk, it does represent a public acknowledgment that food production and consumption are key drivers of the climate crisis.

This followed the award of silver accreditation status by the Sustainable Food Places Network in 2022. This was thanks to initiatives such as the distribution of fresh meals to those most in need, the launch of a Sustainable Food Directory, and community food growing projects.

Council Leader Cammy Day said:

This action plan seeks to build on the work already underway in Edinburgh as a Sustainable Food City and is another important step towards meeting our ambitious climate targets.

I want to be clear that this does not seek to eliminate meat and dairy. It’s not about removing freedom of choice, but about increasing availability and awareness of plant-based options.

This plan needs to be viewed in the context of our wider food agenda which includes tackling food poverty, ensuring living wage suppliers in the food industry, promoting food careers, reducing unnecessary plastic packaging and promoting food redistribution to avoid food waste. These will all be covered in the Council’s food growing strategy progress report, as well as in the Edinburgh Partnership Food Poverty strategy progress report which will be brought to a future committee in March 2024.

The publication of the action plan coincides with Veganuary, which is a global campaign encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle during January. Edinburgh was ranked the most vegan-friendly city of 2022 so there are plenty of restaurants and shops to find plant-based food in the city for those who want to take up the challenge! The Veganuary website has lots of tips and recipes to get you started.

The plan includes actions by the Council and partner organisations - Edinburgh Community Food, Food for Life Scotland, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the Chamber of Commerce, the University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, and Creative Carbon Scotland to encourage wider strategic aims.

Examples of some of the work already implemented by the Council, includes initiatives by the Council’s catering team:

  • In schools, a vegetarian or vegan option available every day, and processed meats reduced in line with the Scottish Government’s legislation on school meals. Local and seasonal vegetables are prioritised, and milk is 100% Scottish. Over the last three-years, work has been undertaken with local suppliers to increase the spend on Scottish produce – with 66.8% of fruit and vegetables, over 80% meat and 99.3% of dairy are Scottish.
  • Across all primary schools, there is one meat-free day per week, with secondary schools providing 100% meat-free main meals one day per week.
  • The Plant-Based treaty is also calling for more local food growing initiatives, such as Edinburgh Growing Together. This is a project delivered by Edible Estates and funded by the Council and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which aims to increase the number of community growing projects on Council housing land and improve existing ones. A lot of this work is conducted by Growing Youth, a social enterprise that educates young people in horticulture and construction.

Published: January 16th 2024